Manufacturing needs skills, capacity - NTF

Namibia Trade Forum (NTF) Trade and Investment Policy Analyst, Maria Immanuel, says that the country’s manufacturing companies should be ready to spend additional money on training, as they try to overcome glaring skills and capacity challenges.
Speaking to the Windhoek Observer this week, Immanuel said there are certain product standards that need to be met by local manufacturers, which most of them are failing to meet.
This in turn impacts on the implementation of the country’s Retail Charter, which aims at increasing shelf space for Namibian products by 20 percent within the next five years.
“The Retail Charter is therefore guiding us as an institution and other stakeholders, to make sure that SMEs meet the required standards and that they are able to shelf their products, as well as occupy retail space.
“The issue of skill shortages is real, and hence manufacturing companies should be ready to spend additional money on training, and in most cases on special skills, especially for new start-up operations, which require expatriates.
“All the different pillars in the charter need to be addressed. What we want is more enterprise development. We need to look at the charter and we need more enterprise development,” Immanuel said.
She added that Government’s ‘Growth at Home’ strategy is the key to eradicating unemployment.
“The country simply cannot be or become a ‘trader’, by just importing and re-selling goods. It has to manufacture for internal consumption and export to neighbouring countries.
“Manufacturers must see to what extent they can utilise local raw materials and/or import raw material and produce products to satisfy local demand. Manufacturers should also strive to produce value-added products. For example, pasta from wheat flour milled locally, or processed meat products, even for export,” Immanuel added.
The manufacturing sector has become Namibia’s hope to achieve and maintain a sustainable economy.
With the 1993 introduction of tax incentives for manufacturers, and the signing of a South African Customs Union (SACU) agreement in 2002 that makes provision for infant industry protection, as well as the Retail Charter, which was launched last year, Government wants the manufacturing and services sector to contribute approximately 80 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030, according to the Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4).
However, the country’s manufacturing sector continues to face an array of challenges, especially in the SME sector. 
According to Danie Grobler, who is a former board member of Team Namibia, one such challenge is the sourcing of raw materials.
“Most of the raw materials, as well as the machinery, need to be sourced from South Africa, and at times it can be costly, especially for the small businesses people. Since technological equipment is key to a manufacturing plant, these often have to be sourced from South Africa or further abroad,” he said.
Namibia imports 50 percent of its maize, 85 percent of its wheat, and all of its sugar.
According to Namibian Standards Institution (NSI) Corporate Communications Officer, Joanette Eises, their role is not to determine whether SMEs meet certain quality standards, but to make sure that products have been barcoded and weighed accordingly, etc.
According to Eises, Namibian manufacturers lack proper regulation.
 “There is no regulation when it comes to the standard of some local products,” she said.
Jaco Venter, the Managing Director of Plastic Packaging, and a former Team Namibia board member, blamed the slow growth in the country’s manufacturing sector on consumer preferences, adding that the quality of the products manufactured in Namibia is up to standard.